Preserving Peppers: My Three Favorite Methods (And Canning is NOT One of Them)
I was at our local grocery store, and here comes a store lady wheeling these enormous boxes/cases of Hot Hatch Chili Peppers out to the produce area. You know how peppers usually are in the grocery store: just jumbled up in the bin. But they were selling the WHOLE case...and for a super tiny price, too!
Even though I've got loads of my own produce from the garden popping out my ears right now---this was just too good a deal to pass on, busy or not. LOVE when this happens! But when I got my huge case of hatch peppers home, I quickly realized I would have to do something with all that produce QUICKLY before it's only good for compost!
Ways to Preserve Peppers (No Canning)
There are many ways to preserve fruits and vegetables, and canning seems to be the most popular these days. However, I'm of a different mind. Some will call heresy on me, but I prefer not to can, at least as little as possible. That doesn't mean I won't-- I just like other preservation methods better. Here are the three preservation methods I chose to use with my humongous lot of peppers:
How to Freeze Peppers
I proudly admit to being a tad lazy in the kitchen. I know that there are sometimes steps you are supposed to take to freeze your vegetables well, but I just put them in a bag and freeze. Peppers, luckily, are one of the veggies, you can freeze like this without feeling guilty. :-) They always come out great!
I cut mine up into small recipe-sized pieces and put them into single use ziplock bags (a note about plastic: I rarely use it, but for freezing it is honestly the best thing I've found except glass, and space for us is premium right now). Then I packed these into gallon freezer bags.
Awesome-ness! These are ready to use for winter, when fresh ones are super pricey!
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How to Dehydrate Peppers
Dehydrated veggies and fruits are some of my favorite things in the world! They are delicious to eat by themselves, it's super easy, and best of all, using dehydration as a preservation method retains the greatest amount of nutritional value of the produce (besides fermentation).
I just cut them up---rings, pieces, whatever, and spread them out on the dehydrator screens. I turned on the Excalibur Dehydrator (the best one I've found) to the "vegetable" setting, and just a few hours later---perfectly crunchy, dried peppers! I love munching on these---They are sweet-hot and delicious!
To use dehydrated peppers: Just toss them into soups, stews, any wet dish will do. They will rehydrate beautifully! We dehydrated a total of six 9x9 screens, and I got them all to fit into two quart size Mason jars. PERFECT!
Dehydrating your veggies also saves space like no tomorrow!
If you want a great book to get you started on dehydrating your fruits, veggies, and more, you'll want to check out The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook. It's become my dehydration Bible. This lady knows what she's doing!
Here's another article on how to dehydrate apples using a dehydrator or an oven, if you are interested!
You probably have realized I am a big fan of fermenting foods. First off, the nutritional value of the foods is actually ENHANCED! The enzymes from the bacteria and yeast create an environment that makes your fermented veggies even more nutritious than before being fermented. Pretty great!
To ferment my peppers, I cut them into rings and put them into half-gallon Mason jars. I could have used quart jars---I just would have had to use twice as many. You can read about how I ferment peppers in this article.
Final Thoughts on Preserving Peppers
Now you have some great ideas on how to quickly preserve a large amount of produce without going through the extended time it takes to can! If you end up with a case of something, why not try freezing, dehydrating, or fermentation?
Maybe someday I'll get around to canning this summer, but for right now, I'm in my fermentation and dehydration groove. Freezing is my third choice.
I'm happy to report that we've already been using the fermented peppers, and they are A-Mazing! These fermented peppers can be expected to last several months (I've had ferments well over a year) in cold storage. I'll probably turn one of the jars into fermented hot sauce too.
We won't be using the dehydrated or frozen peppers until we need them after the Fall harvests are over, and it's so wonderful to know there is food put away.
OH! I forgot to mention the scraps! I did something with these too---it's an experiment, based on how my hands burned until the next day after the pepper cutting process. Can you guess what I might be doing? :-) I'll be sharing the results of this little experiment soon. (Hint: I put the scraps in vodka to soak a few weeks.)
How do you like to preserve your foods? Do you have any other strategies to share? I'd love to hear what you think about the canning debate too---Leave comments in the comment section--
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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